The prospect of a Biden presidency worries not only Israel but also its declared and more tacit allies among Arab states.
And the worries don’t only concern Biden taking a soft line toward Iran like his old boss Barack Obama, but also toward the Muslim Brotherhood — the Egyptian-based Islamist outfit whose fortunately brief takeover of Egypt (2012-2013) the Obama administration encouraged and empowered.
“In a clear message…to a possible US administration under Joe Biden,” Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reports, “Saudi Arabia and Egypt have warned against supporting the Muslim Brotherhood organization.”
Saudi Arabia’s Council of Religious Scholars, its highest religious body, issued a statement — widely seen as a message to Biden — in which it described the Brotherhood as
a deviant group that undermines coexistence within nations, stirs up sedition, violence and terrorism and pursues its partisan goals in an attempt to seize more power for itself under the cover of religion. The history of the organization is one of evil, strife, extremism and terrorism.
That appeal to Biden was echoed by Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, a religious advisory body, which called the Brotherhood a “terrorist” organization that “seeks to divide societies and spread chaos and incite citizens to riot and engage in violence.”
The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, has been the breeding ground for Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, and a host of other Islamist terror groups. It favors the overthrow of pragmatic Arab regimes and, ultimately, a worldwide caliphate imposing sharia law on hapless humanity.
The Arab Weekly reports that the Brotherhood is “hopeful” and “very enthused” about a Biden presidency, while also citing analysts who see that reaction as overblown.
In 2012, as Brotherhood-led sedition jeopardized Egypt’s pragmatic Mubarak government, Obama called for an “orderly transition” to “democracy” in Egypt — a statement widely viewed as a demand for Mubarak’s overthrow by the Brotherhood, which was indeed what transpired. After it transpired, the Obama administration boosted Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi’s regime by selling it F-16 fighter jets and continuing other forms of aid while turning a blind eye to its human rights offenses.
After current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led a coup in 2013 that — with overwhelming popular support — ousted Morsi and his regime, the Obama administration responded by curtailing aid to Sisi’s Western-aligned government.
Meanwhile, with the specter of a reinvigorated Iran haunting moderate actors in the Middle East, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview to Germany’s DPA news agency that “the kingdom will consider arming with nuclear weapons if Iran acquires them.”
Warning that if Iran does go nuclear, other countries will follow suit, Jubeir stated, “We believe that the Iranians have responded only to pressure.” Asked what policies Biden as president would be likely to pursue, he said, “We will have to see.”
Raising the possibility of a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race is indeed alarming, and is meant to be. It reflects widespread alarm in the Middle East about Biden’s declared intention to return to Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — which was seen by all the Middle Eastern countries that are in Iran’s crosshairs, meaning Israel and Sunni Arab states particularly in the Gulf region, as disastrously weak-kneed.
Those concerns were only intensified when Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said this week that Iran would be all too willing to renegotiate the deal if “sanctions are lifted and there are no obstacles to Iran’s economic activities.”
The Middle East a Biden presidency could be expected to face is different from the one the Obama administration left four years ago. The current landscape features an Iran that is still making mischief but seriously weakened by US sanctions, and Israel and pragmatic Arab states — propelled by peace deals between Israel and some of them — cooperating more closely than ever against both Iranian-generated and Sunni extremism. To unravel those accomplishments by once again, like Obama, strengthening some of the region’s most destructive actors would be crazy — but unfortunately not outside the bounds of possibility.